As previously mentioned, Peter Falk passed away on June 23, 2011 at the age of 83. Known mostly for his role in the detective TV series Columbo, Falk’s big break was actually in the true life crime film Murder Inc.
Falk played killer Abe Reles, a murderous enforcer who was contracted to kill only for the mafia. The film was directed by Stuart Rosenberg and Burt Balaban. Because of an impending actor’s strike, the studio wanted the picture done fast. The director Stuart Rosenberg was fired and replaced with producer Burt Balaban. Rosenberg went on to later direct such films as Cool Hand Luke. Balaban only made a couple more crappy B-movies. As a result the film has an uneven quality to it. Some scenes come alive while others plod along trying to get plot out.
The movie was based on a book written by District Attorney Burton Turkus (played by Harry Morgan) who actually worked on the case. It was the second time the book was made into a movie. The first was the 1951 film The Enforcer with Humphrey Bogart as the district attorney. The film fictionalized the story more but it’s a tighter, faster paced film.
On the plus for Murder Inc. is Peter Falk. Falk stands out in the film, calm one minute, ice picking someone to death the next. He even received an Oscar nomination for his role but lost to Peter Ustinov for Spartacus.